‘Always” Short Film Interview with Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario


By: Amanda Guarragi

The 2nd Annual Desertscape International Film Festival in St. George, Utah is a festival that celebrates filmmakers around the globe. People are encouraged to submit their short films and student films to the festival. The festival normally runs from July 29th to August 1st. This year, the short film Always has been selected for the program. I spoke to the creators of the film, Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario ahead of the festival.

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score, make this a truly special film.

The importance of making this film for Zapiain comes from a very personal place. He wanted to address the struggles of those who live with diabetes in a very realistic way. “About three years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, and how I handled the symptoms that surfaced out of the blue and out of control felt like a horror story. Out of control.” It is a film that shows the numbness and fatigue through painted images, that come to life in the depths of Alex’s (David Kurtz) mind.

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The sketches were placed in Alex’s apartment to show that he was an artist and his designs allowed him to explore his inner thoughts. It was a spur of the moment idea, right as they were about to begin shooting the film Del Rosario says, “Sam had this idea right before we are set to shoot. I got some paper out and started sketching immediately and I’m happy it all worked out.” Zapiain also wanted to use the sketches as a creative outlet for him to understand what was happening to his body, while trying to understand the symptoms of being diagnosed with diabetes.

The most challenging aspect of filming this piece for Zapiain was learning to accept and acknowledge the presence of a disease. “For quite some time it was the idea of it being behind me, and somewhat in a state of denial or disbelief. Creating the film meant I knew it was here to stay, and it would make a statement on my life.” Zapiain also thanked his producer Del Rosario for helping him recognize the story, writing it, and gathering such a wonderfully talented cast and crew. “In a way, the people behind the film were my therapy. They helped me accustom.” 

It was important for Del Rosario to take on a project that was so personal to a close friend of hers. “For me, as someone who is not diabetic, I decided to learn more about this condition because someone I care about has it. It was truly terrifying to learn about. I believe it is important to raise awareness about this condition and the symptoms others may be experiencing.” It was a project Del Rosario wanted to work on because there are millions of people in the world that are diabetic, with many of the not knowing they are, undiagnosed.

The focus on the horror elements also enhanced the storytelling. Zapiain wanted to incorporate his love for horror and he did this through the use of repetition, quick edits and stunning monochromatic sequences vs the scenes with insulin that were in colour,

“From a technical standpoint, it was a field day for us to play with shadows, and utilize the horror aspect, exaggerating hallways, dark rooms, silhouettes, etc. Colour meant the reality of the situation. Realizing these horrifying images are in the main character’s perspective, (black and white), and what actually exists in color.

There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures. It is a beautifully shot film and there are certain images that will stay in my mind for a while.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it. To learn more about the struggles of living with diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website.

 

Desertscape International Film Festival 2020 Selection: “Always” Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences, directed by Sam Zapiain and written by Melissa MJ Del Rosario. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score make this a truly special film.

The film hooks you from the moment it begins. The close up shot of the needle in the center of the screen lures you in and then it abruptly cuts to our subject Alex (David Kurtz), who is laying in bed with hands all over his body, appearing to strap him down to the bed. The imagery in this film is quite stunning, as it uses hands and fingers to show the mental struggle in coping with the illness. The film also plays with colours, the anxiety and mental struggle is shown in black and white, while the insulin and needles are in colour. There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. It’s a very important film and most of the images will stay with me for awhile. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it.

CIFF Short Film: Alive Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Alive is written and directed by Jimmy Olsson, which was supposed to premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival. The short film is about a disabled woman named Viktoria (Eva Johansson), who yearns for intimacy. Her assistant Ida (Madeleine Martin) helps her by making her a Tinder profile, hoping it would raise her spirits.

The concept of the film is something unique and hasn’t really been done before, especially on this level of lighthearted humour and genuine feelings towards those who have impediments of any kind. It’s a story that is so innocent, yet makes an impact because of the characters in the story. Even the relationship between Viktoria and Ida was so natural and sweet, that they do care for each other.

Eva Johansson’s performance was great and I wanted to see another two hours of her living her best life. She brought such light and cleverness to Viktoria and had great chemistry with Martin. It was also relatable because of the previous knowledge we all have about Tinder. Ida being apprehensive about Viktoria getting matches and meeting these men, has to do with the fact that first Tinder dates at someone’s home can be unsafe. Viktoria wants to feel alive and once her faith is restored through Tinder, she has more confidence in herself.

Alive is a lovely film and has such great representation of female friendships as well. It also feels intense at times because of the possibility of something going wrong for Viktoria because of what we know about Tinder. Ida and Viktoria’s friendship is such a force in this short film and the ending is perfect.